Perhaps one of my favourite episodes of my favourite ever TV programme “The West Wing” was when Presidential candidates Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda went head-to-head in a US Presidential televised debate.
Not only was the acting superb, clearly part scripted – part improvised and performed live, it gave an enthralling insight into these events.
Here we saw two fine actors portraying Democrat and Republican candidates with real political passion, distinct policies and fervent principles. If you get a chance to find it, download and watch it, because this is how it should be and what unfortunately we are unlikely to see tonight.
Over 70 rules of engagement have been painstakingly negotiated and the bets are really on who will break them first, the audience or a carefully calculated “slip” by one of the leaders!
Whether you are really bothered or not about the whole thing, this is an historic moment for British politics and once we start down this road these debates will now be the main election attraction in all future campaigns.
Whether we will see clear policy and political passion like the debates in the fictional US TV series, is however, doubtful and there is a danger that it does just become a pointless playground argument that “actually we are great and they would be worse than us” or “they are crap and we will be better honest”. This yah boo politics is a sad indictment of the poor qualities of many of the current crop of politicians.
Only Cleggy will no doubt present a principles based standpoint which, if he delivers well and does not get sucked in to the mire, will do him and his party wonders.
One look at the prospective manifestos say it all. High on rhetoric and low on cost and detail, at least the Tories had some kind of theme. Albeit one which basically says “we’re buggered if we know how to run things so why don’t you give up some of your time trying to make ends meet and run it yourselves?”
Sounds like there’s not much point voting for them and we may as well just all put our own names on the ballot papers!
Only the Lib. Dems. went into any semblance of detail and if one of the major parties suddenly took the same approach they would walk it. The people want honesty now, and that is the long and short of it.
I always used to look at the US Presidential glitz and think how grateful I was for British politics. Now, having watched every last minute of The West Wing and closely monitored the passionate debate of the last US Election I am beginning to wonder.
If only Matt Santos or Arnold Vinick were real and taking part tonight without these ridiculous rules then we would have a real TV event to be proud of.
But, I suppose we live in hope so come on guys break the rules and let’s have a real debate. You alone have the chance to bring people back to politics or send them further away in disinterest and apathy. It really is that important.
So please remember the three P’s – Passion, Policy and Principle.
The country awaits …